Give Philly’s Renaissance School turnaround process a chance

     (file photo)

    (file photo)

    As someone who has been through the Renaissance School turnaround process, I would like to share my story in hopes of helping the parents at Cooke, Huey and Wister find some comfort during what I know is a difficult time.

    My daughter was in second grade at Grover Cleveland Elementary when the district announced that our school was entering the Renaissance Turnaround Initiative. To be completely honest, I was angry at first. I’m an alumna of the school with deep ties in this community, which Cleveland has always been a major part of. I had a lot of anxiety, because I was uncertain about what the future held for my family.

    Although I was angry and anxious, I also knew that my daughter had a right to a high-quality education that she wasn’t getting. At a young age she was diagnosed with ADHD. While many students excel academically despite ADHD, the environment at school was making it worse. She was disorganized and falling behind, yet there was only a 50 percent chance that her teachers would notify me before report cards came out, no matter how many times I asked. Too many times it felt like the school was more interested in pushing students along and getting through the day than making sure they were learning and prepared for the next grade level.

    After several meetings and a thorough review of the information parents were given, I decided to give our Renaissance partner, Mastery Schools, a one-year test period. They said they could turn things around quickly. I was open to that, of course, but if they didn’t keep their word I was fully prepared to take my daughter elsewhere. I considered all options, including moving to another neighborhood to find a better school, and I prepared for the worst. In my mind, Mastery had a nine-month academic year to convince us to stay.

    Looking back, I’m glad I kept an open mind, because Cleveland is truly a better school today. The symptoms of my daughter’s ADHD have become more manageable, for one, thanks to the personalized support she’s now receiving. The difference shows up on both her report cards and in our interactions.

    When I get home at night, we discuss her day at school because I know what happened — her teachers communicate regularly with positive and negative reports, which are sent in a variety of ways to make it easier for working parents like me to stay engaged. Sometimes it’s as simple as a text message saying she did well today. It might seem small, but it means a lot.

    I remember my neighbors and I having the same fears that have been expressed by parents at Cooke, Huey and Wister. Change can be hard to accept, especially when it comes to our children, but it’s also necessary sometimes if we want to see improvement.

    Lifestyle changes to improve personal health are difficult and uncomfortable at first, but they will benefit our families in the long run. So too are changes to our schools. Those of us who kept an open mind and gave Mastery a chance to live up to their word are realizing the benefits today, and I encourage others to do the same.

    Stephanie Capehart is the mother of a student at Grover Cleveland Elementary School

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal